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Chapter 3: Crime victimisation

The majority of industrialised countries conduct crime victimisation surveys to estimate the frequency of certain crimes and the proportion of total offences reported to the police. These data are used to supplement police statistics and are particularly useful for examining crimes that have low percentages of reporting to police, such as sexual assault. In previous editions of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures, information has been reported from the ABS Crime Safety Survey (2005). However, with the 2010 release of the ABS' Crime Victimisation, Australia, these data has been revised and updated. Changes in the way victims and incidents have been counted means that current figures are not comparable to those previously reported.

Source: References 16

Household and personal victimisation

Crime Victimisation, Australia distinguishes between household and personal crime. Household crimes include those crimes in which the household (a group of persons residing in a private dwelling and sharing common facilities) is considered the victim of the crime. This includes home break-in, attempted break-in and MVT. For personal crimes, it is the individual who is considered the victim of the crime. Personal crimes include robbery, assault and sexual assault.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 33: Households experiencing household crime in the previous 12 months, 2008–2009 (%)

F&F10_figure33_01.eps

n=8,189,500

Note: As 1 household may have experienced more than 1 crime type, an aggregate total was not possible

  • Both break-ins and attempted break-ins were experienced by around three percent of households surveyed in 2009. By contrast, one percent of households reported being the victim of an MVT.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 34: Persons over the age of 15 years experiencing personal crime, 2008–09

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n=16,937,800

  • In 2009, the percentage of individuals surveyed who experienced a personal crime was small. The highest percentage (6%) reported being the victim of assault, while robbery and sexual assault affected less than one percent each.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 35: Experience of repeat victimisation for selected crimes, 2008–09 (%)

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Note: Excludes incidents of personal crime that could not be categorised. Victims were only counted in the category representing their maximum number of victimisations. For example, if a victim experienced 2 victimisations, they were only included in the 2 victimisations category to avoid multiple counting

  • Forty-three percent of surveyed victims of assault experienced one incident of assault, 20 percent two incidents and 37 percent three or more incidents.
  • For persons reporting only one incident of crime in 2008–09, break-ins were the most common. By contrast, for cases of repeat victimisation, more people reported experiencing assault than robbery or break-in.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 36: Victim of personal crime by gender, 2008–09 (%)

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Note: Victims were only counted in the category representing their maximum number of victimisations

  • In 2008–09, 817,000 males and 578,200 females reported being the victim of personal crime.
  • Threatened assault was the most common personal crime, experienced by 51 percent of males and 52 percent of females.
  • Sexual assault was the least common personal crime, experienced by only one percent of males and seven percent of females.
  • More males than females were victims of robbery and physical assault. Eight percent of males compared with five percent of females experienced robbery, while 39 percent of males compared with 36 percent of females experienced physical assault.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 37: Incidents of physical assault by location, 2008–09 (%)

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POS: Place of study

POE: Place of entertainment

Note: Totals may not equal 100 due to rounding

  • The victim's home was the location in the majority (49%) of physical assault incidents against females in the survey. By comparison, 25 percent of males reported experiencing physical assault on the street.
  • Physical assault against females occurred in a home other than their own 12 percent of the time and at their workplace/place of study 15 percent of the time.
  • In 2008–09, 19 percent of males reported experiencing physical assault in places of entertainment compared with three percent of females.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 38: Incidents of physical assault by relationship to offender, 2008–09 (%)

F&F10_figure38_01.eps

Note: Totals may not equal 100 due to rounding

  • A high proportion of the males and females surveyed experienced physical assault from strangers. Specifically, 47 percent of males and 23 percent of females were physically assaulted by someone not known to them previously.
  • Apart from strangers, the next most common offender–victim relationships for male victims were colleagues (12%) and friends (11%).
  • Thirty-one percent of females were physically assaulted by persons they were currently in, or have previously been in, a relationship with.

Source: Reference 16

Reporting crime to the police

Victimisation surveys are useful for assessing the extent and nature of crime that is not reported to the police. Surveys find a wide variation in reporting, depending on the type of crime. Figure 39 shows the estimated proportion of reported crimes for selected offence categories reported in the 2008–09 Crime Victimisation Survey.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 39: Incidents of selected personal crimes reported to police, 2008–09 (%)

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Note: Totals may not equal 100 due to rounding

  • In the category of assault, incidents of physical assault were the most commonly reported incidents to police by respondents (45%). By contrast, only 31 percent of sexual assault and 30 percent of threatened assault were made known to police by respondents.
  • During the period of 2008–09, 39 percent of robberies were reported to police, the second most commonly reported personal crime.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 40: Incidents of household crime reported to police, 2008–09 (%)

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Note: Totals may not equal 100 due to rounding

  • MVT was the household crime most commonly reported to police, with an estimated 87 percent of incidents being reported.
  • 'Other' theft and attempted break-in were least likely to be made known to the police, with only 34 and 38 percent reported to police, respectively.
  • In 2008–09, 76 percent of break-ins, 55 percent of theft from a motor vehicle and 43 percent of malicious property damage were reported to police.

Source: Reference 16

Fear and perception of crime

Concerns about crime are generally more widespread than recent direct experiences of victimisation (Reference 29). The ABS measured a number of dimensions that assessed Australians' perceptions of personal safety. These dimensions included feelings of safety at home, on public transport or walking after dark, as well as perceived problems in the neighbourhood.

Figure 41: Feelings of safety in selected situations, 2008–09 (%)

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Note: category 'never alone due to other reason' excluded

Note: Totals may not equal 100 due to rounding

  • In all four scenarios, the majority of Australians surveyed reported feeling safe. This perception was highest when at home alone during the day, where 83 percent reported feeling safe, while only three percent reported feeling unsafe.
  • Being at home alone after dark had the highest percentage of respondents who reported feeling unsafe (4%), while three percent reported feeling unsafe using public transport alone after dark.
  • Fifteen percent of respondents stated that they were never alone when walking through their neighbourhood after dark due to safety concerns.
  • Seventy percent of Australians felt safe at home alone after dark, while one percent reported never being alone in their home at night due to safety concerns. By comparison, 37 percent of Australians reported feeling safe walking alone after dark in their neighbourhood compared with 15 percent who were never alone due to safety concerns.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 42: Perceived problems in the neighbourhood, 2008–09 (%)

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DND: Dangerous/noisy driving

VGD: Vandalism/graffiti/damage to property

HBT: Housebreaking/burglaries/theft from home

  • In 2008–09, 45 percent of Australians surveyed perceived dangerous and noisy driving to be the most problematic issue in their neighbourhood.
  • By comparison, vandalism/graffiti and damage to property were perceived as a problem for 35 percent of Australians, home break-ins or theft were a problem for 29 percent and youth gangs a problem for 20 percent of those surveyed.
  • Thirty-one percent of respondents perceived there to be no crime problems in their neighbourhood.

Source: Reference 16

Cybercrime

Cybercrime is an umbrella term that describes offences committed online or through the medium of a computer. Each year, a growing number of Australians are victims of cybercrimes ranging from virus and Trojan attacks to identity theft and internet-based scams.

As few police agencies identify cybercrimes separately, this section presents the results of Australian surveys of computer crime and security by AusCERT, Microsoft and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). These organisations surveyed Australian computer users in 2008–09 to generate an understanding of cybercrime in Australia.

These data are not representative of the Australian population and therefore caution should be used when generalising from the findings. Furthermore, despite being published in 2009, the Home Users Computer Security Survey conducted by AusCERT reports data from 2008.

Malware

A common form of cybercrime involves the installation of unwanted and/or malicious software (malware) on the user's computer without their consent. Malware has the ability to severely damage a computer's functioning and can also allow external users unauthorised access. Malware can be used to gain access to a victim's bank accounts, steal passwords and aid in the perpetration of online identity theft. Common examples are:

Viruses and worms—once installed, viruses and worms replicate themselves and infect other computers, through devices such as email or instant messaging. Viruses and worms harm the computer by executing damaging commands. Unlike viruses, worms can infect computers without the aid of a host program.

Trojan horses (Trojans)—harm the user's computer system but do not self-replicate. Trojans can be used to bypass security systems and allow external users access to the computer. Often Trojans mask themselves as useful pieces of software.

Backdoors—a subcategory of Trojan horses, backdoors allow external users unauthorised, remote access to the computer.

Downloaders/droppers—another form of Trojan horse that, once present on the computer, installs other malware on the host computer.

Adware—displays advertising materials, often in the form of pop-ups, on the host computer.

Spyware—records information relating to the users online habits without their consent.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 43: Types of malware present on Australian computers, 2008 and 2009 (%)

  • In both years, Trojans were the most common type of malware present on computers, while spyware was the least common.
  • In 2009, the reported number of adware, spyware and other unwanted software decreased by 30, 22 and 15 percent respectively. By comparison, worms increased by 197 percent, while password stealing software increased by 154 percent.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 44: Number of reported malware infections on Australian computers, 2008 (%)

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  • Of the 233 people surveyed, 30 percent reported no malware infections of any kind in 2008, however, 62 percent experienced one to three malware infections, with five percent experiencing six or more incidents.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 45: Confidence of home computer users in selected online activities, 2008 (%)

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Note: Totals may not equal 100 due to rounding

  • Across all three categories, over half of the 233 surveyed users reported feeling confident or very confident when managing their online security.
  • Thirteen percent of respondents reported feeling either unconfident or very unconfident when providing personal information online. By comparison, only six percent reported a similar lack of confidence when distinguishing a spam email from a legitimate one.

Source: Reference 18

Scams

Scams aim to defraud an individual via deceptive deals and offers, many of which are perpetrated online. In 2009, the ACCC released a report that detailed the extent of scams in Australia.

Figure 46: Top 10 most commonly reported scams, 2009 (%)

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  • Scams that involved competitions and prizes (lotteries and unexpected prizes) accounted for 20 percent of scams reported to the ACCC.
  • Mobile phone and computer prediction scams (such as betting) were the least reported, accounting for two percent each.
  • More people reported experiencing advanced fee scams (32%) than dating and romance scams (3%) and employment scams (5%). Advanced fee scams involve the victim paying a nominated sum of money under the (false) pretence they will receive a larger sum in return. Common examples are 'Nigerian' email scams.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 47: Victims of scams who reported monetary loss, 2009 (%)

  • Only one percent of respondents reported losing money to banking and online scams, while only three percent lost money to unexpected prize scams.
  • Individuals who reported losing money to scams were most likely to have been a victim of advanced fee scams.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 48: Monetary amounts lost to scams, 2009 (%)

  • Over half (52%) the respondents who lost money to scams reported losing less than $1,000.
  • Conversely, less than one percent of people reported losing between $500,000 and $1,000,000.

Source: Reference 19